Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Come See The Chaunk On Friday At Rancho Gordo In The SF Ferry Building And Have Some Dal On Us!

   We've been working on a project the last several months that finally is sitting on the table in all its glory. The Chaunk, An Indian Spice Kit. After Paula Wolfert, Alice Medrich, and Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo New World Specialty Foods came to our house for an Indian lunch this Summer, Steve suggested that we develop an Indian Spice Kit to make cooking delicious Indian food easier for people. We immediately got excited about the project since one of the things I always hear about Indian food is "I'd love to cook it but where do I get all those spices?" The Chaunk makes that easy. It's all in one box.
   For years living in Los Angeles near a great Indian market, I was able to get everything I needed for my cooking quickly and easily. However, if one does not have a place like that on tap, cooking Indian food can be a fairly frustrating experience. Where to find, Methi leaves, Amuchur powder, Kalonji (aka Nigella)? Certainly not at one's neighborhood supermarket as I found out after we moved to Sonoma. 50 mile round trip drives to get the Indian pantry essentials I needed was a lot of work, especially if Indian cuisine at home is a new thing to someone. Which is why we came up with  The Chaunk.

   The Chaunk is a cooking technique used in the cuisines of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh where whole spices are fried briefly in oil to heighten their flavors then poured over the dish at the beginning or the very end of cooking. Where did the word "chaunk" come from? Some people say it originated with the muffled sound of the just fried spices being poured over the dish. Either way, it's the delicious "finish" that makes the flavors "pop". The Chaunk Box comes in two sizes. The smaller pack contains 8 spices and ingredients, the larger pack contains 12. Both packs include some of our favorite vegetarian recipes. The idea is,  one can open the box and start cooking great Indian food easily at home.
I will be at Steve Sando's Rancho Gordo Store at the San Francisco Ferry Building this coming Friday, the day after Thanksgiving from 11:00 AM on, where The Chaunk will be on sale. I'll be serving up delicious Dal Makhani made with some of Steve's great Ayocote Morado beans so c'mon down and say hello. We hope to make The Chaunk available online soon.


Monday, November 16, 2015

Gluten Free, Chocolate Shortbread Cookies With CocoaPlanet Chocolate Ganache Icing. PS: They Can Be Vegan Too!

   This is cookie season, aka, The Holidays. No matter what you're celebrating there's always room for a cookie or two, and this is a cookie recipe that can be enjoyed by anyone no matter what their dietary requirements.

   I've been working with the folks at CocoaPlanet for a couple of years now and I'm thoroughly in love with their chocolate. Because the owners of the business cannot eat gluten, their chocolate is entirely gluten free, lactose free, non GMO, and fair trade. Anne McKibben, the creator of CocoaPlanet is of French ancestry, and learned chocolate making from her mom. This stuff is GOOD! Seriously old school. They're opening their CocoaPlanet factory here in Sonoma next January and it's also going to house a cafe and also garden dining where one can do chocolate tastings and grab a meal at the same time. I'm working with them developing gluten free and vegan dishes for the menu. This is the most fun food assignment I've had in quite a while.
   One of the things I've come up with for CocoaPlanet are these chocolate shortbread cookies. They're easy to make at home. The dough keeps well in the fridge or freezer when properly wrapped which makes them perfect for last minute holiday guests. They can also be made vegan, with one simple shortening change. This recipe uses butter, but one can easily switch that out for any vegan shortening. I've been making quite a few batches of these while we've been "testing" (technical word for pigging out) them. This is a delicious and easily made cookie, so in case you can't get out to CocoaPlanet in person, you can buy their chocolate and make these at home. In fact all of the ingredients are easily found at any Whole Foods or natural foods market.

Gluten Free Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

Here's What You Need:
For the Cookies
2 cups plus 4 Tbsp of teff flour
12 Tbsp white rice flour
1/2 cup of good quality dark unsweetened cocoa powder
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature or an equal amount (1 cup) of vegan shortening
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt

For the Ganache 
1/2 cup of whipping cream, or full fat coconut milk
10 oz of CocoaPlanet Mandarin Orange Chocolate.

Here's What to Do: 

Mix together the rice flour and teff flour. I always keep a container of this rice flour/ teff flour mix in the house ever since Alice Medrich came to lunch at our place and turned me on to it. As Alice has pointed out in her book Flavor Flours, Teff flour is a killer mix with chocolate. This stuff is a good thing to have around if you are a gluten free chocolate lover.

Scoop out 1 and 1/2 cups of the teff / rice flour mix you made.
Sift this flour mix together with the cocoa powder, and kosher salt and set it aside.

In an electric mixer or with a hand mixer beat the butter or shortening for about 4 minutes or until it's nice and fluffy.

Add in the sugar.

Beat it for about another 2 minutes.
Adjust your speed to low and add in the flour cocoa mixture.

Mix it together on a low speed until everything in combined and the dough sticks together.
Lay down some waxed paper.
Place the cookie dough on it and shape it into a disc.

Lay more waxed paper on top and flatten the dough until it's about 1/4 inch thick. I do this because the dough is going to be cut with a cookie cutter when it's firm.

Place the cookie dough into the fridge to firm up. This takes about 1 hour.

You can also roll the dough into a log shape and wrap it in waxed paper. Doing it that way allows you to just cut pieces off the log and bake them whenever you'd like. 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
After the dough has firmed up, take it from the fridge and smooth it out a bit with a rolling pin to get it to the thickness you'd like. Always keep waxed paper between the dough and the rolling pin so nothing sticks.
Place a piece of parchment paper or a silicone baking mat on a cookie sheet.
Using a small round cookie or biscuit cutter, punch out round cookies and place them about an inch apart on the sheet. They will spread while baking.

You want them to be about this thick.

When they're all on the cookie sheet place them in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes.

Take them out and let them cool on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes or so and then transfer them to a cooling rack.

Meanwhile mix the Ganache according to this recipe.
When the cookies have cooled ice them on one half of one side.

Place them on a cooling rack so the ganache can set.

Don't refrigerate these cookies, just keep them in an airtight container to store them. You likely won't be keeping them too long, as these don't last especially around kids! Here's a delicate serving suggestion..but who am I kidding?

Just reach in a grab a fistful. Your gluten free/ vegan friends will thank you, and those that aren't will never know the difference unless you tell them. Right now there's only one place to get these and that's my house..but as soon as CocoaPlanet opens here in Sonoma...they'll be on the menu.

   We're pretty excited here about another project we're doing that's going to be coming up on the day after Thanksgiving aka Black Friday when The Colors of Indian Cooking comes to the Ferry Building in San Francisco courtesy of Steve Sando and Rancho Gordo Beans.... details very soon.
 Coming up next. Winter vegetables and Indian comfort food. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Friday, November 6, 2015

Jacques Pepin's Birthday Cake And The Best Icing Ever. CocoaPlanet Mandarin Orange Ganache.

   Last month we journeyed down from Sonoma, and spent an evening in San Francisco at the Herbst Theatre for Chef Jacques Pepin's birthday party.  The reason for all this was our friends at CocoaPlanet were tasked with baking Chef Pepin's 80th birthday cake. I've been using and cooking with CocoaPlanet chocolate for the last couple of years. Even though their chocolate is available all across the US, they're a local Sonoma based company. In fact they're building their new chocolate factory right here in Sonoma right now... right on  Broadway.

   All their chocolate is Gluten Free, since the chocolate makers themselves are gluten intolerant. All but one type is lactose free, it's all low in sugar, organic, and non GMO. In their new facility, they'll be having tastings, chocolate pairings, and of course all the chocolate goodies you watch being made are going to be on sale. They're also going to have a cafe and garden dining. Since I do a lot of vegan, and gluten-free cooking, I've been hired to do some menu consulting for them and together we're whipping up all sorts of tasty stuff. One thing that's definitely going to be on this menu is Jacques Pepin's Birthday Cake.

   This cake is gluten free, lactose free and out of your mind delicious. The recipe is CocoaPlanet co founder Anne McKibben's old French family recipe. I wish I could share it with you, but this is a for real family secret that's never been published and so you'll just have to come to Sonoma and taste it. She baked the cake you see here, three layers to accommodate everyone. Normally the cake is one layer. She gave me the recipe so I could try it, and I baked it for Halloween night at our house.

It's a Chocolate Mandarin Orange cake with Chocolate Mandarin Orange Ganache. The only part I am free to share is the ganache recipe and wow! It's a perfect icing. Even without the cake recipe, this ganache is easy to make and great for anything you might want to bake. So without further ado....

CocoaPlanet  Mandarin Orange Ganache

Here's What You Need: 
10 squares of CocaPlanet Chocolate Mandarin Orange ...this comes out to about 10 ozs.
1/2 cup of whipping cream or canned full fat coconut milk.

Here's What To Do: 
Take the chocolate pieces and place them in a pan on the stove. I use copper for most dessert stuff, chocolate melting etc. Paula Wolfert gave me an old copper pot of hers ages ago and it works like a charm.
Heat the chocolate gently until it melts.

Keep stirring so it melts evenly.
Add in the 1/2 cup of cream or coconut milk if you want this to be vegan.

Stir things around until it's all well blended and take it off the stove.
Let it cool a bit and then ice your cake/ cupcakes/ whatever. For this ganache you want the icing to be on the thick side.

Let the ganache dry and you are good to go!!! After your cake is frosted, keep it at room temperature as chocolate and fridges are not a good combo.

gluten free, dairy free

Serve it up and enjoy.

   I love this ganache, perfect, smooth, creamy and if you use coconut milk... totally vegan. I wish I could share the recipe, but I promised... family secret and all. Since my family's coat of arms features two crossed keys which in heraldry stand for secret keeping I figure I may as well keep my family tradition. Right now the only place you can get this cake is Anne's  house, or my house but very soon any visitor to Sonoma can drop into CocoaPlanet and have a slice of this delicious gluten-free and lactose-free cake of their very own.  Coming up next... whats new in the garden? It's root vegetable time Indian style!

Follow along in Twitter @kathygori

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Raw And The Cooked. Zucchini, The "Unpasta" With a Spiced Indian Tomato Sauce.

   I grew up eating Italian food. I'm Italian on both sides of the family. My mom is of old California pioneer stock (her family came from Louisiana for the Gold Rush.) They were French but soon hooked up with a bunch of Italians out here in California so the non Italian relatives on her side are down to about 1/8 of a percent. My dads' family was straight off the boat, he was first generation. His family were from Florence and Siena. On his side they're a distinguished bunch and we even have a coat of arms and a couple of Pope relatives from waaaay back in the day.

   Despite all this Italian business, and having two grandmothers who were excellent cooks, why was my mom serving Chef Boyardee raviolis out of the can, and boxed instant pasta and frozen pizza from Kraft? The answer is pretty simple; she hated to cook. My mom had a can opener and a dream and that dream was to get the food on the family table with a minimum of effort and cost. She didn't believe in preheating an oven before putting food into it, and "scratch" was what you did to an itch. The closest she got to homemade was Bisquick. It wasn't because she was lazy, it was because she really didn't care much about food, and she never quite understood those of us who do. Food was just something you had to feed your family and yourself to keep breathing and so let's not make too big a thing of it.

   I on the other hand was intrigued by all the stuff I saw my grandmotthers doing in the kitchen and I really wanted to learn to do it too.  I started cooking for myself when I was about 11 years old using one of my great grandmother's old California pioneer cookbooks...where there were no oven temperatures several recipes for squirrel. Gradually I figured stuff out and while I've cooked a lot of stuff over the years...never used that squirrel recipe yet.

   One of the first things I learned to cook was pasta. I learned to cook it out of the box al dente, then I cooked it fresh, and finally I started making my own pasta.

Pasta is not something we eat that often around our house, mainly because I'm usually cooking Indian food. Also, in the name of not eating too many heavy carbs, pasta is saved for special treat days. Recently the question came up as to how to get that "Pasta feeling" without the actual pasta. The other question was how to get that pasta to turn in an Indian food direction. The answer was a Spiralizer. So, I bought one.

What a nifty device. This thing turns vegetables into pasta but the ultimate test was to try it out on my live in guinea pig, my husband Alan. I figured that pasta made of zucchini would taste great with a tomato sauce and I knew a classic Indian Butter Spiced Tomato Sauce that just fit the bill. I had to give this a try.

Zucchini Pasta With Indian Spiced Tomato Sauce

Here's What You Need:
2 Large zucchini
2  14 oz cans of tomatoes
2 large shallots
10 cloves
2 Tbs ghee or unsalted butter
2 bay leaves
2 black cardamom pods
5 green cardamom pods
2 serrano chilies
6 thin slices of peeled ginger
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
2 cups water
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp dried methi (fenugreek leaves)
1/2  to 1 cup whipping cream
I cinnamon stick

Here's What To Do:
Put the black cardamom pods and the green cardamom pods in a mortar and crush them gently. You just want to crack the pods slightly.

Put the cardamoms and bay leaves and cloves into a small bowl and set aside for later.
Chop two serrano chilies finely and put them in the bowl with the cardamoms and cloves.

Finely chop  2 shallots set them aside.

Peel and thinly slice some fresh ginger. You want 6 thin slices.

Place them in the bowl with the other stuff and toss in a a cinnamon stick.

 Mix together the paprika and nutmeg and  set them aside.

In a skillet or kadhai heat the butter or ghee.

When it's nice a foamy toss in the cinnamon, bay leaves, shallot, cloves, cardamoms, serrano chilies, and ginger slices.

Stir them around  for about 1 minute then add in the shallots.

Saute everything together for a few minutes until the shallots start to turn a light brown.

Add in the tomatoes, paprika and nutmeg.

 pour in 1 cup of water.

Bring everything to a boil, then put a lid on the pot and turn it down to a simmer.
Stir it occasionally. (I used canned tomatoes because I've eaten all our fresh ones and I find a good canned tomato is better than a mediocre fresh one.)
The idea is to get the tomatoes soft and pulpy and the sauce should decrease in volume by half. You are cooking this down.This takes about 20 to 25 minutes.
When the sauce has reduced turn off the heat and let it cool a bit.

Take the cooled sauce and either run it through a food mill, (I don't have one) or a fine mesh strainer placed over a bowl.

Press the tomato sauce through the mesh leaving the pulp and the whole spices behind.

Pour the reduced sauce back into the skillet or kadhai.

Add in the salt...

...the dried fenugreek leaves (methi)...

...and the cream. I used 1/2 a cup but you can use up to 1 cup if you find you need it.

Rewarm the sauce, blending in the new ingredients. Watch the temp as you don't want this stuff to curdle!
Simmer it gently and then set it aside. Time to make the zucchini pasta.

Take a couple of large zucchini and wash them well. Cut off each end, then cut the zucchini in half.

Place it on the spiralizer using the noodle blade and turn.

Bingo! Pasta!

Now you can take this pasta and heat it in a bit of butter to soften it...(we tried it that way.)

It only takes a minute or two....or...
You can also use the thinly sliced zucchini noodles raw, which we also did.
Actually we preferred the vegetable pasta raw as it gave the perfect al dente feel to the dish.
Set a serving of pasta up in a pasta bowl, and drizzle the warm spicy tomato sauce over it.

Sprinkle the finished serving with a crumble of peanut powder and you're good to go.

This is a great substitute for a grain pasta, as it's gluten free and not at all heavy.

   My pasta loving husband wolfed this down, and said he couldn't believe he was actually loving this unpasta pasta. My next experiment with this dish will be to try the sauce vegan style using coconut milk instead of cream, and coconut oil in place of butter. I think this should work beautifully.

   Either way, this is a lovely quick dish, guaranteed to please. You can make the tomato sauce ahead of time and warm it up when you're ready to serve. You can't beat that. Try it on your pasta lovers and see what happens. That dang spiralizer is the best thing I've bought in ages... and kids love to watch the veggies go round and round, an absolute win win recipe. Coming up next...sweet sweet preparation for the Holdiays. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


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